hi tech: Prescriptions being fed into the Dh1.5 million intelligent system Image Credit: XPRESS/AHMED KUTTY

ABU DHABI: Pharmacists are human, after all. Hence a hospital in Abu Dhabi has opened a robotic pharmacy where no human error can occur while dispensing medicines.

Claimed to be the first of its kind in the Middle East, the hi-tech medical shop has a robotic arm that finds and hands out the prescribed medicines over the counter within seconds.

The German technology called Rowa Smart System is introduced in its pharmacy by the new Universal Hospital on Airport Road.

“There are over 100,000 fatalities reported in the US alone due to wrong dispensation of medicines by the pharmacists. That is why we have spent an extra Dh1.5 million to install this technology,” Dr. Shabeer Nellikode, managing director of the hospital, told XPRESS.

This is how it works. Your doctor writes the prescription, which is fed into the Electronic Medical Record (EMR). After doing initial checks, it is transferred automatically into the pharmacy’s system. By the time the patient reaches the pharmacy, the interactions would have been verified including the insurance coverage.

The integrated system then gives the order to Rowa that swings into action. A robotic arm that functions in the storage space moves and finds the listed medicines according to the dosage. It then dispenses the medicines to one of the four respective counters from where the order was sent.

Vineeth Rameez, the hospital’s vice-president of finance, said that the system rules out human errors completely. “There is no chance for an error as there is no manual interference at any stage.”

The storeroom where the robotic arm operates can keep 15,000 packets and bottles of medicines. The storage area is divided into 12 bays, six on each side. Each bay is subdivided into small-sized shelves numbered one to 50.

Reginal Samuel, Sales Con-sultant for the Rowa Smart system, said the robotic arm takes only five to 11 seconds to find one medicine. “The best part is Rowa knows how to arrange and re-arrange medicines according to the frequency of demand. Those that are frequently prescribed are kept closer to the counter and the ones that are rarely used are kept at the farthest end. This further reduces the time it takes to dispense the order,” said Samuel.

Likewise, Rowa is also smart enough to first clear out medicines as their expiry dates approach. Also, if you are buying just a strip or two from a packet, Rowa keeps pre-opened packs separately and gives you just what you want.

The robot is also programmed to arrange the stock as and when it gets the input of new medicines. “The medicines are scanned and sent to the store through a conveyor belt. Rowa will pick out the medicines and store them in the assigned place.

And it can deliver orders to the counter as well as arrange medicines on the racks simultaneously,” added Samuel.